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South Korea’s Dramas Have Come a Long Way and May Very Well Lead the Pack in Quality and Originality. Apropos The City Hunter (2012) Part 1.

18 Jan

The “Rangoon Incident” a Little History

On October 9, 1983, then South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan was on an official visit to Rangoon, the capital of Burma.  During the visit he planned to lay a wreath at the Martyrs’ Mausoleum to commemorate Aung San, who founded the independent Burma and was assassinated in 1947.  While the president’s staff and advance team began assembling at the mausoleum, one of three concealed bombs in the roof exploded.  The immense blast ripped through the crowd below, killing 21 people and seriously wounding 46 others.  The explosion killed three senior South Korean politicians: foreign minister Lee Beom-seok; economic planning minister and deputy prime minister, Suh Suk Joon; and minister for commerce and industry, Kim Dong Whie.  Fourteen Korean presidential advisers, journalists, and security officials were killed; 4 Burmese nationals, including 3 journalists, were also among the dead.  President Chun was saved only because his car had been delayed in traffic and was only minutes from arriving at the memorial.  The bomb was reportedly detonated early because the presidential bugle which signaled Chun’s arrival mistakenly rang out a few minutes ahead of schedule.

A North Korean army major and two captains were suspected and caught.  They revealed that they had slipped off a ship docked in Yangon port, and had received the explosives in a North Korean diplomatic pouch.  Two of the three attackers attempted to commit suicide by blowing themselves up with a hand grenade that same day, but survived and were arrested.  The third suspect, a major from North Korean Army, went missing, but was hunted down by the Burmese Army.  The major confessed his mission and links to North Korea to avoid the death sentence receiving life imprisonment.  His colleague was executed by hanging.  North Korea denied any links to the incident and even today in the face of massive evidence continues to deny any involvement in the atrocity.

As a result of the bombing, Burma suspended diplomatic relations with North Korea.  Chinese officials refused to meet or even talk with North Korean officials for months.  South Korea, under pressure from the United States, did not retaliate with anything other than heated rhetoric.

Why is this important?  Because that is the scary, but true, backdrop for The City Hunter series.

The 20 episode series begins at the Rangoon bombing and fictionalizes a South Korean military retaliation hatched by five South Korean official’s code-named “Operation Cleansweep.”  The objective was to enter North Korea and kill several top members of the North’s high military command.  Two Presidential Security Service bodyguards and best friends Lee Jin-pyo (Kim Sang-joong) and Park Moo-yul (Park Sang-min) who were at the bombing, organize a 21-man team for the mission.  While the team effectively eliminates its targets in Pyongyang, the five officials abandon the plan in midstream to avoid an international crisis if the mission is discovered.  They fear that the United States will remove nuclear protection if the mission is made public as Seoul officially declared that it will not retaliate.

Though their mission is a total success, as the troops are escaping by swimming from Nampo to a Navy submarine, snipers from the friendly vessel open fire on their own soldiers.  Park, who is already injured, takes several bullets to save Lee.  Lee, the sole survivor, swims back to shore and returns to South Korea, where he finds out that the assault team’s service and personal records have been erased.

Obsessed with avenging his fallen comrades, Lee Jin-pyo kidnaps Moo-yul’s infant son.  He runs to the Golden Triangle (an area in Southeast Asia second only to Afghanistan in opium production) to raise the child as a trained killer and instrument of his revenge.

Fast forward a number of years later, Yoon-sung, after successfully finishing his college years and attaining a doctorate from MIT, returns to South Korea to implement the plans for revenge against the five officials who murdered the soldiers.  He finds a job at the South Korea’s Blue House as an IT expert.  Obviously making him privy to vast amounts of intelligence and information that could be valuable in discovering and punishing the five officials behind the aborted mission.

The 20 episode series walks us through the trials and tribulations of finding and taking revenge on the responsible officials.

Let’s talk a little bit about why I think South Korea’s (and in general Asian) TV dramas have surpassed the shows pumped out for the U.S. market.

Anyone who knows us here at JPFmovies knows that we quit watching all American live-regular programing (including cable) years ago and went to an all movie all the time format for entertainment-this includes selected U.S. TV series that we do like, but have a policy of only watching via DVD or electronically.  Why?  The reason is very simple.  Several years ago we were watching regularly scheduled programming and realized that the shows were actually making us feel stupider.  Cliché plots, programs that have dragged on way past their useful lives and commercials finally pushed us over the edge, something had to be done.  The switch was made and thus began the search for viable alternatives.

Already conditioned to subtitles, the JPFmovie personnel was forced to migrate to series and films produced in Asia.  Unlike their American counterparts, the Asian’s limit the number of episodes is limited and pre-determined-typically in the range of 4, 10 or 20 shows.  That is it.  The show ends, the viewer gets closure and the series does not suffer a slow painful death.  So you know going in what to expect, the show is not dependent on ratings.  Also, Asian shows are often a melding of history and fiction i.e. The City Hunter, starts off with a real event and moves forward from there.  It is a refreshing change from either America’s cops and robbers or your “fish out of water” stories.  For JPFmovie personnel at least our loyalty has changed.  Ask yourself this, when was the last time an American series went out on top?

Well that ends the complaining for now; stay tuned for The City Hunter Part 2 and more on Asia vs. American TV.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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